Appointed by the British in 1921 to the newly created position of grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini emerged in the following years as the leader of the Palestinian national movement, and strongly opposed any compromise with Zionism or the Zionists. He encouraged the anti-Jewish riots and massacres of the 1930s, and, as is well known, met with Hitler and collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. After the 1948 war, it was long assumed, he faded from prominence, but recently declassified CIA documents suggest otherwise. Sean Durns writes:
In October 1951, U.S. intelligence warned of a “possible terrorist campaign” by Husseini, “who has the combined forces of the [Muslim] Brotherhood and his own terrorist organization” targeting British nationals in four Arab countries, as well as the “property and personnel of the trans-Arabian pipeline.” The mufti enjoyed close relations with the Brotherhood, which used his “spacious home in Jerusalem” for their “Palestine headquarters.”
U.S. intelligence managed to capture correspondence showing that the mufti was regularly briefed on terrorist activities, and had operatives traversing the Middle East. As late as 1962, he was still plotting to assassinate opponents. And, as late as 1965, the CIA was warning that Husseini “has instructed key followers” in Jordan to “reactivate” old units for attacks against Israel. The agency noted that the mufti was even purchasing “arms and ammunition” that were “remnants of the 1948” conflict.
By 1967, Husseini had reached a détente with King Hussein’s Jordan, which even allowed him to visit Jerusalem shortly before the Six-Day War, hoping that the mufti would help counter Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the then-Egyptian-controlled Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Amazingly enough, the mufti even fed intelligence to Hussein—the man whose grandfather he had had murdered—about Yasir Arafat, a distant cousin of Husseini, whom he formally anointed as his successor following a December 29, 1968 meeting near Beirut.
By the time of his death in Beirut on July 4, 1974, the mufti’s legacy was secure. Arafat would similarly play Arab regimes against each other and make war on the Jewish state. A mosque financed by Husseini and German ex-Nazis has, in recent years, been linked to Islamist terror groups like al-Qaeda. And much of the rhetoric employed by Husseini—such as comparing Zionists to Nazis—remains common today.